On Saturday, September 11, members of the Asheville Fire Department and their families gathered at the Grove Park Inn to participate in a ceremony commemorating firefighters who served and died in the 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City. The ceremony was presided over by Asheville Fire Chief Scott Burnette, who said the events of September 11 hit the firefighting community especially hard.
“Nine years ago, hundreds of firefighters rushed into those towers,” Burnette said. “Their one purpose was to save lives. 343 of them did not come home. It was a huge blow to the American fire service.”
The ceremony was marked by a moment of silence, a presentation of the colors, a commemorative video and a performance by the Asheville Fire Department’s Pipe and Drum corps. The Asheville Fire Department holds the memorial ceremony each year, and also uses the event to note accomplishments of the department and its personnel over the past year.
“This is a somber day,” Burnette said. “But it is also a day of celebration of our firefighters and our accomplishments.”
Firefighters who were promoted in the past year were recognized in pinning ceremonies, and the department’s new hires were formally welcomed into the ranks. Additionally, the department gives out special ribbons to firefighters whose actions resulting in saving a life over the past year. “We have much to celebrate this year,” Burnette said, adding that a new station and a larger force means a quicker response in emergencies.
The Asheville Fire Department hired 13 new firefighters in the past year, and opened a new station in Haw Creek in July, 2009. The department was also re-accredited by the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
“There are a lot of of people whose lives have been saved through the efforts of these firefighters,” Burnette said. “They have made an enormous difference.”